THE POLICY ISSUE WINTER 2013
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF James Rogers ADVISOR Dr. Rebekah Green
MANAGING EDITOR Brenna Greely EDITORS Nick Thomas Preston VanSanden SCIENCE EDITOR Tanner Humphries
PHOTO EDITOR Lauren Owens
In this issue of The Planet, we decided to tackle stories of environmental policy.
MULTIMEDIA EDITOR Taylor Russell
Luckily, our timing could not have been better. A lot is happening in the world of policy:
LEAD DESIGNER Becca Taylor DESIGNERS Al Gandy Ruth Ganzhorn WEB DESIGNER Andrea Frye WRITERS Brianne Aoki Chelsea Staehler Christopher Zemp Freya Fradenburgh Kenneth Clarkson Kira Taylor Lauren Foote Rachel Lee MULTIMEDIA WRITER Sarah Mikkelborg PHOTOGRAPHERS Elliot Reid Peter McGrath Robin Jones Tim Seguin
President Barack Obama just entered his second term in office at the beginning of this year and will announce his final word on the Keystone XL pipeline in the next few months. In Bellingham, the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point has been as prominent as ever. Thousands of citizens gave their comments in support of or against the project during the public comment process ending in late January. Washington state as a whole also had a very important November election, when the state passed initiative 502 and referendum 74 —two controversial but forward-thinking laws. In this issue of The Planet, there are stories dedicated to international policy problems, state policies and issues right here in our backyard. We covered the Alberta tar sands, urban planning in Bellingham, the coal terminal, invasive species in Lake Whatcom and more. During our search for stories, The Planet staff and I were not surprised to find an overwhelming focus on climate change and energy within the sphere of environmental politics. We were surprised, however, to see so many solutions dealing with these prolific problems. In addition, a special thanks goes out to Troy Abel whose energy policy and politics course helped to generate many of these story ideas. Congratulations once again on winning the Lynton Keith Caldwell Prize last fall. And a special thanks to Lynton Caldwell himself, who ushered in modern environmental policy during the 1960s in response to Rachel Carson’s release of “Silent Spring.” Enjoy!
James Rogers Editor-in-Chief The Planet Magazine c/o Huxley College Western Washington University 516 High Street, CF 220 Bellingham, WA 98225 Telephone (360) 650-3543 firstname.lastname@example.org http://planet.wwu.edu
THE PLANET MAGAZINE is the quarterly student publication of Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment. We are dedicated to environmental advocacy through responsible journalism. This issue of The Planet is printed on Mohawk Via uncoated bright white paper. It is made from 30% recycled content. Mohawk is a certified Women Owned Business Enterprise and is the first U.S. paper mill to offset 100% of its electricity with windpower renewable energy credits. It is also the first U. S. premium paper mill to shift toward carbon neutral production. Basically, they’re environmental superheroes. We are proud to support them.
OIL ADDICTION A controversial form of extracting oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada could provide the U.S. with new jobs and a closer source of oil if the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline is constructed. by Christopher Zemp
DAZED AND CONFUSED by Kenneth Clarkson
COMBATING CLIMATE CHANGE by Rachel Lee
IT TAKES A VILLAGE by Brianne Aoki
COAL CONTROVERSY One of the five proposed locations for a U.S. to China coal-shipping terminal is at Cherry Point in Bellingham, Wash. Although this proposed site might not require much alteration to the landscape, it still has many social and environmental drawbacks. by Kira Taylor
POWERING WASHINGTON by Chelsea Staehler
FRACKING POINT by Lauren Foote
MUSSELING IN Zebra and quagga mussels have damaged lake ecosystems and clogged pipes across the U.S. Washington authorities are looking at ways to prevent these species from entering the state or invading Bellingham’s Lake Whatcom. by Freya Fradenburgh
ON THE COVER People have mined coal for ages, and have always found uses for it. By placing coal on a white background, we are able to see coal stripped of context. An unbiased view shows the details: dark, shiny, rigid and crumbled. This simplified view takes away our connotations of coal and allows us to look at the real issues surrounding the coal industry. -Robin Jones
“To help offset the disturbances caused by the tar sands, the Alberta government has passed environmental laws and regulations that their website claims are among the ‘most stringent in the world.’”
Northwestern Alberta, home to the largest freshwater delta in the world, serves as a sanctuary for a wide variety of wildlife and is the site of what has been called mankind’s black gold: 170 billion barrels of oil, all within the confines of the Alberta tar sands. The oil, in the form of a tar-like compound known as bitumen, must first be extracted and refined before it can be transported to other markets. As the world increases greenhouse gas emissions, the Alberta tar sands and the proposed Keystone Pipeline XL could lead to economic gains and potential environmental problems.
STORY CHRISTOPHER ZEMP | PHOTOS ELLIOT REID
OILADDICTION Home to the world’s third largest oil reserve and spanning an area larger than England, the Alberta tar sands are quickly fixing to become a one-stop-shop for a drug known to cause century-long addictions. To help fuel the addiction, one Canadian corporation is proposing a new mega-pipeline be built to satisfy U.S. oil demands.
UNCOVERING THE OIL To refine the heavy oil that bitumen produces, it must first be dug-up from the sand using one of several mining techniques. Travis Davies, the manager for media and issues at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, an organization representing 90 percent of Canada’s oil industry, said the extraction process can be done one of two ways: oil well extraction or open-pit surface mining. About 20 percent of the recoverable bitumen lies within 200 feet of the Earth’s surface, so the mining can be done using the open-pit method, Davies said. The remaining 80 percent of tar sand oil reserves reside at an average depth of 1200 feet, which is too deep for open-pit mining. These reserves must be extracted using a process known as in-situ mining. “In-situ essentially means in place. You’re drilling wells and using thermal or chemical processes to extract the well via pipe,” Davies said. The bitumen is then pumped to the surface and transported by pipeline to a refining site,
Left: A train brings oil to the Shell refinery in Anacortes, Wash. Oil from the tar sands would eventually make its way to refineries on the Gulf Coast that specialize in heavy oil.
requiring additional resources such as natural gas and water, Davies said. Davies said that although open-pit mining only constitutes 20 percent of the total tar sand mining operations, it uses more resources than in-situ on a barrel-to-barrel basis. According to Water Use in Canada’s Oil Sands, a 2012 report by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the production of oil from tar sands requires more than 45 billion gallons of fresh water each year, which is more than the entire city of Seattle uses annually. However, in-situ wells typically use less water than conventional (non-tar sand) oil wells. According to a 2005 report by Dan Woynillowicz of the Pembina Institute, a Canadian based environmental research organization, the amount of natural gas used by the tar sands each day amounts to 600 million cubic feet, enough to heat about 3 million American homes. Andy Bunn, an associate professor at Western Washington University, said this represents an inefficient use of the total energy within the tar sands itself. “It has a really low energy return on energy invested,” Bunn said. “It takes a tremendous amount of energy to produce energy from that source.” DUCK HUNTING According to Tar Sands Fever, a 2007 article by the World Watch Institute, every barrel of bitumen extracted results in six barrels of waste. This waste is then stored in bodies of water, commonly referred to as tailing ponds, where the leftover materials (water, clay and toxic metals) are left to settle. Once the solid material has settled to the bottom of the pond, the remaining water is recycled back into the
mining process. The recycled water comprises about 90 percent of the tar sands’ annual water use, said Davies. With enormous amounts of crude production come enormous amounts of waste. So much waste that according to Tar Sands Fever, the tailing ponds can be seen from space. But astronauts are not the only ones noticing the tailing ponds. Thousands of ducks have tried to seek refuge on the vast expanse of toxic ponds. In 2008, over 1,600 ducks died after landing on a tailing pond operated by Syncrude, one of the tar sands’ largest operators, Davies said. Now permanent deterrents are put in place to prevent ducks from landing on the ponds. Companies have installed scarecrows and military-grade sound weapons in order to keep ducks and other birds off of the ponds, Davies said. RECLAMATION To help offset the disturbances caused by the tar sands, the Alberta government has passed environmental laws and regulations that their website claims are among the “most stringent in the world.” According to a 2009 report from the Alberta government entitled Environmental Management of Alberta’s Oil Sands, the industry is now legally obligated to reclaim land, meaning to attempt to return disturbed land to its original state prior to development. However, according to a report by the Pembina Institute entitled Fact or Fiction, many government regulations are vague in regards to how the disturbed land must be reclaimed, which could potentially lead to large parts of the landscape that do not resemble the natural layout of the boreal forest. According to the government report, the timescale to achieve reclamation varies greatly, anywhere from a few decades to 150 years.
THE KEYSTONE CONNECTION All the oil produced from the tar sands will eventually be sold to world markets, namely the U.S. and potentially China, transportation by means of several mega-pipelines. One of these pipelines is TransCanada’s proposed $7 billion Keystone XL. According to TransCanada’s website, the pipeline would create up to 20,000 American jobs, providing a boost to the American economy. Under the current U.S. government proposal, the pipeline would stretch roughly 1,000 miles from the oil sands region to Nebraska, where it would link up with another pipeline segment currently under construction. Operating under full capacity, the Keystone XL would allow for a continuous flow of heavy crude all the way from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, where it would then be refined for consumer use. Davies said the Keystone XL makes economic sense. “Bitumen is heavy oil, and the Gulf Coast is one of the largest heavy oil refining markets in the world. Recently, Venezuelan- and Mayanbased oil [companies] have backed out [of the
Gulf Coast refineries] — so you have a bunch of spare capacity in those heavy oil refineries, and our oil is a good fit,” Davies said. Dr. Bruce Robinson, deputy program director of the environmental management and nuclear waste programs at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico, said the pipeline would benefit America in other ways. “The pipeline will enable more of our oil consumption to be supplied by domestic, or at least North American, oil, rather than Middle Eastern oil. This enhances our national security, and our balance of trade position, by using U.S. refining capacity in the supply chain,” Robinson said in an email interview. According to a 2012 report by Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute, the net impact of opening up tar sand’s oil to other world markets will hurt the American worker. According to the report, the oil now supplying Midwest American refineries would be diverted to Gulf Coast refineries, where it would then be sold overseas, thus causing domestic oil prices to rise as much as 20 cents per gallon of gasoline in some parts of the country. Robinson said greenhouse gases will reach the atmosphere whether the Keystone pipeline is built or not. “The pipeline itself will do nothing one way or the other regarding GHG emissions, because if we don’t import that oil and refine it
A 2013 satellite image in Alberta, Canada shows areas of the boreal forest disturbed by the in-situ mining process. Alberta’s government plans to rehabilitate these sites in years to come.
Map data: Google, DigitalGlobe.
in the Gulf Coast, the Canadians have signaled that they will pipe it to [British Columbia] and sell it to China,” Robinson said. However, some environmentalists and activists are taking matters into their own hands. On Feb. 27, tens of thousands gathered on Washington’s National Mall calling on Barack Obama to reject the pipeline proposal. According to Truth-Out, an independent news organization, the rally was one of the largest environmental gatherings in history, with an estimated 50,000 in attendance. THE DECISION The ultimate approval for Keystone XL resides with Barack Obama. In 2011, the president denied the proposal, calling the process rushed. TransCanada has since reapplied for approval and is now waiting on a decision. The U.S. State Department has signaled that an announcement is expected sometime after March 2013 – an announcement that is expected to bring much controversy. The decision has little to do with energy science and more to do with geopolitics, Bunn said, though he does wish the U.S. would make a greater push towards clean energy. “God forbid we switch to alternative energy and it turns out we were wrong about the [environmental] concerns and we’re just left with clean energy,” Bunn said. “We should be willing to make the big push into cleaner energy, despite the fact there’s uncertainty about the risks of using conventional energy.” Either way, the bitumen-infused treasure buried beneath Alberta’s oil sands will end up in human hands, Bunn said. “It would be very unlike us as a species to leave the Alberta oil in the ground — historically that’s not something we’ve been real good at.”
CHRISTOPHER ZEMP is a self-confessed outdoor addict planning to major in environmental science at Western Washington University. A northwest native, he enjoys backpacking, photography and sleeping under the stars amongst the mountains. ELLIOT REID is a senior studying visual journalism at Western Washington University. He spends his time on a snowboard, making music and capturing moments through the looking glass.
DAZED AND CONFUSED STORY KENNETH CLARKSON | PHOTOS TIM SEGUIN
The Washington State Liquor Control Board, an organization built with the intention to regulate alcohol, must now deal with a whole new substance. Taking its first hit of marijuana, the board has realized smoking it is the easy part.
Initiative 502, which passed in the 2012 election, allows the recreational producing, processing and distribution of marijuana by licensed individuals. The guidelines are set and it is now up to the Washington State Liquor Control Board to frame the rules that will govern this newly legalized industry. As of Dec. 6, 2012, the initiative has been in effect, although still no retail stores or producers exist. Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesperson for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, said the initiative holds very broad guidelines about the three available licenses. “We are establishing the producing license right now, and we will be taking public PREVIOUS PAGE: This state legal home grow-operation in Bellingham, Wash. uses high-powered fluorescent lights and a carbon air filtration system to support several strains of cannabis. BELOW: John Dickinson emptied a bag containing morphine, marijuana, hashish and other drugs in front of the Washington State Liquor Control Board at a public forum on Feb. 19. “It was a good grab bag,” says Dickinson.
comment on the producing license until March 15,” he said. Once the producing license is complete, only then can the board start the process of determining how the other two licenses will work, he said. In order to clear the smoke, the board has established statewide, public forums ending March 7 in Bremerton, Wash. On Feb. 19, hundreds of people attended the public forum at McIntyre Hall in Mt. Vernon, Wash. to speak about their confusion over the initiative. “We want [the public] to help guide us into what that rulemaking should look like,” said Sharon Foster, Chairperson of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, at the start of the meeting. The board cannot change what is already in legislation. “We did not write the law, and it is important that you know that,” Foster said. According to the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the goal is to create a strictly controlled and regulated cannabis market. Gary Ruehle and John Dickinson, who spoke at the forum, said the Washington State Liquor Control Board cannot achieve this goal and should instead form an alternative. “I think cannabis regulation should have its own board and not be associated in anyway with alcohol,” Ruehle said. Ruehle and Dickinson, former drug smugglers together in the 1960s turned cannabis activists, spoke first at the Mt. Vernon forum. Ruehle, after his public comment, smoked a joint on stage and received applause from the audience. On stage, Dickinson emptied the contents of a brown bag, which included morphine, 50 strains of marijuana, hashish and a plethora of other drugs, onto the table of the representatives for the Washington State Liquor Control Board. “It was a good grab bag,” Dickinson said with a smile. Dickinson said the board must be educated on the drug market if they are to be successful in regulating cannabis trade.
Three big issues arose from the forums: the prior criminal history of participants, the size of growing operations and financing for persons in the marijuana business, Carpenter said. For the last 30 years, Seattle-based lawyer Jeffrey Steinborn has defended clients accused of drug crimes. Due to possible interference by the federal government, and the introduction of permit fees and taxes on producers, processers and retailers, Steinborn said he does not see the initiative working. Steinborn said growers will be subject to giving all of their information to the Drug Enforcement Agency when applying for a license because I-502 does not comply with federal law. “If the Feds do not get out of the way, I can’t imagine anybody putting his or her name on a list that subjects you to federal prosecution when the only reward is the right to sell state legal cannabis at twice or three times the going rate,” Steinborn said. It is too early to know if information will be sent to the DEA, Carpenter said. “The entire mechanism of the licensing structure hasn’t been set up yet,” Carpenter said. “Once we get some draft rule language, we will have a better idea of where all the information goes.” Dennis Crowley, owner of the local Bellingham Kind Green Botanicals Collective Garden, said the federal plant limit is also a major concern amongst producers of cannabis. The board has still not established how much a producer will be able to grow, he said. Regardless of the plant limit created by the board, any person producing under the new initiative could be subject to punishment by the federal government. “We have no impact on federal law,” said Foster, Chairperson of the Washington State Liquor Control Board. The law also establishes a 25 percent tax at each level of operation according to the Washington State Liquor Control Board’s website. In addition to the taxes imposed on participants to obtain a license, participants will also
“Regardless of the plant limit created by the board, any person producing under the new initiative could be subject to punishment by the federal government.”
have to pay fees. According to the Washington State Liquor Control Board’s website, licenses to grow marijuana under the new law will cost a one-time $250 fee with $1,000 yearly renewal. “If you want to participate [in the new law] you have to get a permit, and not everyone is going to get them.” Steinborn said. Due to these financial implications, participants will need to secure loans and a line of credit but they are concerned about their ability to do so because of their choice of business, Carpenter said. According to the Washington State Liquor Control Board, a tentative timeline is set up to have the producing license available for applicants in mid-August. By Dec. 1, 2013, the Washington State Liquor Control Board has to create the threetiered system that legalizes recreational marijuana, Carpenter said. “It’s always a challenge when you’re doing something that does not exist anywhere else in the world,” he said. “You are making the ground you are walking on.”
A. On Feb. 19, the Washington State Liquor Control Board fielded comments from the public regarding I-502. From left to right: Ruthann Kurose, Sharon Foster and Chris Marr. B. Hundreds of people attended a public forum regarding I-502 on Feb. 19 in Mt. Vernon, Wash. C. Jeffery Steinborn, Seattle attorney specializing in cases involving marijuana, says marijuana purchased legally at state stores will likely be two to three times the current black market rate. D. Several ways to cultivate include marijuana greenhouses, outdoor farms and hydroponic methods. Pictured is a plant grown indoors using organic soil. E. This inconspicuous storefront in Seattle is a medical marijuana dispensary. Due to the risk of burglary and the fact that marijuana is illegal federally, dispensaries tend to keep a low profile.
KENNETH CLARKSON is a freshman at Western Washington University originally from the East Coast. When not studying he can be found adventuring, kayaking and exploring the vast environment the world has to offer. TIM SEGUIN is pursuing a degree in environmental photography though Huxley College and Western Washington University’s art department. When he is not in the darkroom, he enjoys snowboarding and bird watching.
C O M B A T I N G CLIMATE CHANGE STORY RACHEL LEE | PHOTOS ROBIN JONES & PETER MCGRATH
As the hazy sun sets across the horizon, military personnel trudge through the sand to their quarters for the night. For the last twelve hours, the hot sun has been soaking into bright, reflective solar panels across the base. As lights turn out, all that is left are a few dimly lit stations charging supplies in anticipation for yet another day in the desert. Climate change has become an issue of national security in many countries throughout the world. In response, the U.S. military has begun using technology and preventative measures to address climate change and its implications. Global climate change has been linked to food and water scarcity, environmental degradation, spreading of disease and mass migration. The U.S. armed forces has increased its attention to climate change by focusing on lowering its energy use and planning for the future. The military has begun investing in solar-powered technology and alternative fuel sources to address changing environmental conditions. In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2009, President Barack Obama stressed the importance of climate change and national security. Climate change was included as a military concern in the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which determines what the military should focus on, for the first time in 2010. According to the United States’ National Security Strategy in 2010, climate change has
been linked with a possible increase in violence, widespread disease and economic instability, resulting in threats to national security. After the release of the QDR, academic scholars, the Department of Defense and partners throughout the world began working with the U.S. military. They worked toward researching and creating new technological advancements to address climate change, according to The Militarization of Climate Change by Emily Gilbert. The military’s involvement is just one tactic to bring political attention to the climate change situation, said Simon Dalby, a professor at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Ontario, Canada. “[The military] is the one institution in western societies that have the mandate to look at the long term and analyze what threats are coming to modern states,” he said. The armed forces has taken on several projects to ensure a more energy efficient system. The Navy Seals have recently been deployed to Afghanistan with $2 million
in new gear including solar technology to power equipment, purify water and refrigerate medical supplies and food. In addition, according to Joshua Zaffos in his 2012 article in Scientific American, the Navy and Air Force have been working on becoming less dependent on oil by testing new biofuels made with wood waste and algae as a replacement for fuel. “The military has a huge impact environmentally and I really do think that they are being conscientious in terms of trying to think about ways they can limit their footprint,” Gilbert said. After spending five years as a sergeant in the Army, more than two of those in a combat unit in Iraq, Western Washington University biology student Alex Gomes said he is glad to see the change. “We have generators running 24 hours a day for the whole year,” Gomes said. “With all that diesel, you can imagine how terrible that is for the environment.” In 2009, the Department of Defense and Irwin Energy Security Partners agreed to invest
$2 billion to make California’s largest army training camp, Fort Irwin, energy independent by 2022, according to Gilbert’s article. This means switching over to a solar-powered base. In addition, military bases are building zeroenergy homes, while a new project to introduce 4,000 electric cars into the armed forces is in the works. Michael Casper, who spent 14 years as an imagery intelligence analyst in the Air Force and Air National Guard, said the military’s use of energy affects everyone. “The impact the military has on the environment — they’re not excluded from it,” Casper said. “There’s not a bubble over any one military base. What’s good for them and what’s good for everyone else should be one in the same.” The rate at which climate change is affecting the environment has sped up, Dalby said. “Since the late 1980s, people have assumed that climate change was something in the future,” Dalby said. “Well guess what — the future has now arrived.” According to Climate Change and its Possible Implications by Sorin Ioan, some vulnerable areas such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, which are already water scarce, will suffer from lower water supplies due to reduced precipitation. Along with gathering drinking water from rain, the water
from mountain glaciers provide drinking water for 40 percent of the world’s population. According to Ioan, even a 2 degree Celsius rise can cause changes to areas that depend on glacier water. Shrinking glaciers cause more flooding during the rainy season and lead to less snowmelt, which feeds rivers and farmlands during the dry season. “It is a big issue and [the military] is becoming increasingly concerned that they are going to have to, first of all, prepare to live in a different world but also prepare to deal with new kinds of crises and potential conflicts,” Dalby said. Average temperatures rose 0.8 degrees Celsius around the world since 1880, much of this rise in recent decades, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “If they fail to get politicians to act and act quickly, clearly not only do they have to think about the impacts on everybody else, but indeed the military has to think about climate change impacts on their own facilities,” Dalby said. Some sources of tension between countries are aggravated by climate change. The nations vulnerable to the effects of climate
ABOVE: Toy army men silhouetted by light. (photo illustration)
“The military has a huge impact environmentally and I really do think that they are being conscientious in terms of trying to think about ways they can limit their footprint.”
IMAGES ABOVE: The U.S. Military has started to refine algae-based biofuel at a large scale to offset rising jet-fuel prices. According to a 2012 study by the University of San Diego, algae-based biofuel has the potential to be economically competitive with current fossil fuel production.
change will face diminishing access to food and water and violent weather that could result in land loss because of rising sea levels and increased storm surges, damaging the infrastructure and uprooting people from their homes, according to Ioan. “There have been some situations in which large numbers of people have been set in motion to escape storms or such things, which have been seen by some governments as a threat,” Dalby said. “Migrants queuing up at the border trying to get in, in search of medical care or food or whatever [are for some reason understood] to be potentially politically destabilizing.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a group comprised of scientists from different countries throughout the world that provide comprehensive assessments of current scientific, technical and socio-economic information worldwide about the risk of climate
change caused by human activity. According to Gilbert’s article, the panel states that environmental refugees will grow to 150 million by 2050. With involvement from the military in reducing its use of energy and planning for possible disasters in the future, every facet of government must get involved. The military can only do so much to address climate change so focusing on collaboration with other facets of government, businesses and individuals is necessary to make a change, Gilbert said. In many countries like the U.S. and Britain, issues gain much more attention if they are introduced as national security concerns. Many politicians have not been giving climate change very much attention, so raising awareness is a key factor toward making changes, Dalby said. “Getting the attention of political elites and getting them to talk seriously about slowing down and then eventually reversing the growth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the most important thing they can do,” Dalby said. In addition to raising awareness within the local political realm, academic scholars like Gilbert and Dalby said this national security
issue may soon spark the interest in organizations and international governments to create cooperative efforts and fight climate change. “It’s not just any one of those groups that’s going to solve it on their own,” Gilbert said. “I think it needs a big shift in perspective and understanding about the impact that we as humans have on the world, and trying to adjust our impact so that it is more sustainable.”
IT TAKES A VILLAGE STORY BRIANNE AOKI | PHOTOS ROBIN JONES & PETER MCGRATH
RACHEL LEE studies journalism with emphasis in public relations and political science at Western Washington University. She enjoys cheerleading and exploring the depths of her kitchen one recipe at a time. ROBIN JONES is a junior studying photography at Western Washington University. He spends his days napping and his nights watching Netflix while telling his friends he is too busy to go out. PETER MCGRATH is senior at Western Washington University majoring in marketing. When he is not in class, you can find him on the water competing for the varsity sailing team.
The number of people living in urban areas is estimated to hit 5 billion people worldwide over the next two decades, according to Tigran Haas’ book Sustainable Urbanism and Beyond. People choosing to vacate rural areas and create communities that encompass all aspects of daily
“Since the late 1980s, people have assumed that climate change was something in the future,” Darby said. “Well guess what — the future has now arrived.”
life may reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the convenience of city life.
Through the concept of urban villages, Bellingham city planners, with input from the community, are creating areas that promote a mix of commercial and residential use. Convenient access to stores and restaurants that are pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly are also in the plans, according to the urban village planning page on the City of Bellingham’s website. Urban villages in Washington were designed as a way to respond to the rapid sprawl in the 1980s, said Darby Cowley, a City of Bellingham senior planner. Sprawl, according to New Urbanism’s website, can be defined as development that is dispersed, auto-dependent and unfriendly to pedestrians. Nicholas Zaferatos, associate professor of environmental studies at Western Washington
ABOVE: A view of North State Street at night. Under current regulations, there is no height restriction on buildings downtown. This will help vertical, rather than sprawling, expansion.
University, said Washingtonians are lucky to live in a state with good land-use policy. The Washington State Growth Management Act of 1990 established 13 goals for all local governments to plan for, Zaferatos said. “One of them is to protect our resource lands — lands that we use for our own survivability like agriculture, timber and mining. So, don’t destroy them [and] don’t build sprawl development,” he said. Many states are creating state laws to stifle sprawl growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“In fact, you can make the argument that land-use, transportation and housing are like a three-legged stool.”
California’s Senate bill 375, passed in 2008, requires metropolitan planning organizations in the state to make sure their transportation and housing plans meet goals to lower greenhouse gas emissions, said Marlon Boarnet, Professor and Director of the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. Urban villages are examples of smart growth, Zaferatos said. They are high-density and provide diversification, social equity and public spaces, which all goes into the planning and design, he said. Although the idea of urban village devel-
opment is not new on a national or global scale, a planning studio class in the spring of 2004 at Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment began looking at how the village concept could be applied to the redevelopment of Bellingham’s Samish Way, Zaferatos said. After the students came up with the plan, they presented it to residents and businesses of Samish Way. The idea was so well received it was approved and implemented into city plans, Cowley said. Buildings on Samish Way will become denser and taller, Zaferatos said. He expects it to change into a cityscape that incorporates high-rises and condensed businesses instead of fast food joints and large empty parking lots. Chris Comeau, a Bellingham transportation planner, said Bellingham is the urban hub LEFT: Chris Comeau is a transportation planner for the city of Bellingham. IMAGES BELOW: In 1968 a Valu-Mart sits in the same space where a Haggen grocery store stands today. Urban development and design is constantly changing with the times to fit the needs of society, whether it is a drastic restoration, breaking new ground or the simple update. Left photo courtesy of the Whatcom Museum City of Bellingham archives.
RIGHT: Los Angeles as seen from the Hollywood sign. According to the U.S. Census in 2011, the city is the second most populated in the U.S. with a density of 8.092 people per square mile.
of Whatcom County. People come here to shop, see entertainment, attend one of three colleges or go to one of the major medical centers that a larger community provides for more intensive care. “We’re like a giant magnet for Whatcom County,” he said. Bellingham combined land-use and transportation planning, making them more dependent on each other, Comeau said. “They go hand-in-hand, you cannot separate them,” Comeau said. “In fact, you can make the argument that land-use, transportation and housing are like a three-legged stool.” Paul Stangl, associate professor of environmental studies at Western Washington University, said the urban village concept potentially leads to more affordable housing. Infrastructure costs in the city are lowered and fewer roads need to be built and maintained in communities with fewer cars, Stangl said. Social interaction is another important focus. “That is how to build communities where there are a lot of social places that encourage the interaction of people so that you’re having face-to-face contact and commuting,” Zaferatos said. “You’re waiting for a bus and
you’re actually bumping shoulders with human beings.” Anne Mackie, co-owner of Nelson’s Market and a York Neighborhood Association board member, said she fully supports the concept of urban villages. The York neighborhood already resembles an urban village in a historical sense, Mackie said. “A lot of people tend to want to buy a house in this neighborhood so they can walk to other services—catch the bus and walk downtown,” Mackie said. “So, it’s very attractive in that sense, for people who want to get away from dependence on the automobile.” The Samish Way urban village would positively impact the York neighborhood and Nelson’s Market by bringing more people in, reducing crime and making the area more attractive, Mackie said. The City of Bellingham is providing an economic incentive for developers to build in urban village areas, Comeau said. If developers propose residential or commercial buildings that are not automotive-oriented, they will be charged less for transportation impact fees. But often residents have negative attitudes toward changing neighborhoods, Zaferatos said. “A lot of neighborhoods in the city are resistant to seeing more density and infill in population; they want everything to be just the way it is,” he said. “So while they don’t want sprawl outside of the city limits, they also don’t necessarily want infill within their neighborhoods.” Ralph Black, one of the owners of Alliance Properties, the largest developer in Bellingham, said the regulations and rules to build urban villages are not very flexible. It is not the developers who are unwilling to build the urban villages; it is the city officials who cannot take the heat from the public, Black said. “As long as we continue to say one thing and do another, you are never going to have real change,” he said. “You are never going to have an urban village, you are never going to reduce greenhouse gases. Because when you get pushback or something else, you change —you
don’t have the courage of your convictions.” Comeau said that growth management is all about balance. “It’s balancing everything, trying to find compromise, trying to provide enough of everything for everybody the best you can under changing circumstances,” he said. “Cities are dynamic, they change — they have to. A city that doesn’t change stagnates and dies.” An important aspect to the future of urban villages is selling them as opportunities for development, Cowley said. Different types of housing will come out of the urban village idea; it will incorporate the in-betweens of an apartment or house, such as townhomes and duplexes. “Families have changed and evolved, but our housing hasn’t really evolved with it,” she said.
BRIANNE AOKI is a senior studying journalism at Western Washington University. Pinterest, watching sitcoms and training for triathlons take up most of her time between classes. ROBIN JONES is a junior studying photography at Western Washington University. He spends his days napping and his nights watching Netflix while telling his friends he is too busy to go out. PETER MCGRATH is a senior at Western Washington University majoring in marketing. When he is not in class, you can find him on the water competing for the Varisty sailing team.
“Cities are dynamic, they change — they have to. A city that doesn’t change stagnates and dies.”
C O A L CO N T ROV E R SY
STORY KIRA TAYLOR | PHOTOS ROBIN JONES & TIM SEGUIN In 1891, Bellingham, Wash. was a coal town. On the south shore of Bellinghamâ€™s Lake Whatcom, where hills studded with Douglas-fir trees met the border of the long and narrow waterway, there was a coal mine. A number of other mines were scattered throughout what is now downtown Bellingham, including one that stretched from Marine Drive to the Birchwood neighborhood.
If a new terminal is built, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad will be responsible for transporting coal from Wyoming and Montana to the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point.
Now, Bellingham is a forerunner of green urbanism. In 2011, it was recognized for its energy efficiency by the National Resource Defense Council and commended by the Environmental Protection Agency for its use of renewable energy. Bellingham does not fit the profile of a city likely to embrace its industrial past. It also happens to be a few miles south of arguably the best site on the west coast for a coal terminal. According to a 2008 U.S. Geological Survey assessment, the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana is home to the greatest coal reserves in North America and the single most productive mine in the U.S. In order to ship this vast wealth of coal to an eager Chinese market, five new ports are proposed on the coasts of Washington and Oregon. Three companies, SSA Marine, Peabody Energy and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, have focused their efforts on a proposed terminal at Cherry Point near Bellingham. At this border between land and sea, between domestic and global trade, Bellingham is faced with a decision. This small, coastal community can either support the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point and the jobs and tax money it could provide, or oppose construction in the name of the heritage of the Lummi Nation, the uncertainty of the global coal market and the environment. BELOW RIGHT: Dan Jaffe, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington Bothell, discovered air pollutants from Asia in both Oregon and Washington. BELOW: The purposed site of the Gateway Pacific Terminal is nestled between Intalco Aluminum Corporation and BP Cherry Point Refinery.
THE OVERLAND JOURNEY The Powder River Basin of Wyoming is an expanse of sun-bleached rocks. It contains over 20,000 square miles of hills and valleys that dip and rise like the topography of a tumultuous ocean. Between hills are vast surface mines. From these mines, coal will be packed into railcars up to 1.5 miles long and sent west, passing through small towns and ranchlands. An increase in train traffic will impact the communities it bisects, but the route of the trains is still up in the air. Jean Melious, a political science professor at Western Washington University, said this will make it difficult to assess their effect. “In our area, there are some benefits — there are some taxing districts that will get some money, there are some folks that might get jobs — if you’re looking further away, all they get is the impacts,” Melious said. From North America’s heartland, these trains laden with coal will then wind their way to the sea.
AT THE POINT Nestled between Birch and Lummi bays, just a few miles south of Canada, Cherry Point is home to both one of the West Coast’s largest oil refineries and a marine sanctuary that harbors a diverse population of marine organisms. The proposed terminal will cover 15,000 acres, the largest facility of its kind in the U.S., according to SSA Marine’s Gateway Pacific Terminal website. It is intended to facilitate Capesize tankers. The ocean floor drops off rapidly from the coastline to depths of 70 feet or more, allowing large, low-clearance vessels to approach the shore, according to the 2010 Cherry Point Management Plan by Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources. Matt Krogh, the Northwest Director for the Power Past Coal Campaign, said this depth is a major advantage because SSA Marine, the company in charge of the terminal itself, will not have to acquire a permit for dredging. Craig Cole, Senior Consultant for
ABOVE: Jeremiah Julius, member of the Lummi Tribal Council, stands at Cherry Point. RIGHT: The proposed coal trains will be over 1.5 miles in length. With trains traveling 50-60 mph, commuters could expect to wait 3 to 4 minutes at a railway crossing, according to a Burlington, Wash. traffic study by Gibson Traffic Consultants.
the Gateway Pacific Terminal Project, said dredging, the process of removing sediment from the ocean floor to deepen a waterway, is expensive and environmentally invasive. The deep water is one of many advantages particular to this site, Cole said. The layout of the bluff allows for pier construction without major alteration to the land. Buffer zones, or surrounding areas without any other development, help reduce the impacts that industry might have on nearby communities. “Every industrial development has impacts. I think the question is — can you avoid them or mitigate them? This site has the best opportunity to do that,” Cole said. In spite of these advantages, community concerns related to the terminal have been numerous. The state and federal government are working together to produce an Environmental Impact Assessment. The first step is a “scoping period,” during which anyone can submit suggestions for what the assessment will address. Larry Altose, spokesperson for the Washington Department of Ecology, said the response is unprecedented. People concerned about the terminal sent an estimated 124,000
comments. Many of the comments were form letters from organized comment campaigns, but 16,000 of the responses were unique, which, Altose said, is a Washington record. “Given that we have 16,000 unique comments, if you can think of an issue, we probably have comments on it,” Altose said. Comment subjects spanned from climate change to noise pollution from train traffic, and though many responses were from Whatcom County residents some arrived from as far away as China, according to the Department of Ecology website. The Lummi Nation has also expressed concerns. In September 2012, the Lummi Tribal Council released a press statement formally voicing their opposition. Jeremiah Julius, a member of the Tribal Council, said ships passing through Rosario Straight, a channel in the San Juan Islands, could impact his treaty-defended right to fish. The Lummi also have strong cultural ties to the area. “The environment is important, but what is unique about Cherry Point is that it’s an ancient burial ground,” Julius said. Dr. Frank Russo, a Lummi Nation historian, said at least 15,000 people through-
out 75 generations of the Lummi Tribe are buried there. WHERE IT GOES NEXT Once the trains reach Cherry Point, the coal will be loaded onto ships bound for Asia. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. coal exports to China have increased by more than 100 percent between 2011 and 2012. “[China has] a lot of coal. The reason that they’re importing it is essentially that we subsidize it — we provide it at a really low rate,” Melious said. “It is cheaper for them to buy the coal that we transport from the Powder River Basin than to transport their own coal from Mongolia.” Right now, China imports coal to support economic growth in the east and southeast coast. It does not currently have the infrastructure to transport its own coal, Krogh said. “They are looking for all the cheap coal they can get, at the same time they are investing more in renewables than any other country in the world,” Krogh said. If coal is not made readily and cheaply available to China’s substantial market, it could
“At this border between land and sea, between domestic and global trade, Bellingham is faced with a decision.”
only encourage their growing interest in more environmentally sound sources of energy, Krogh said. Once coal reaches China, it will support a growing industry. Coastal cities are expanding, and China’s middle class continues to grow. This rapid growth has had environmental repercussions. At the 2012 Olympics in Beijing, the extent of China’s air quality problems became a global issue, as images of skyscrapers fading into a dense haze were broadcast around the world. In January 2013, air pollution levels were far beyond the “hazardous” level of the U.S. Embassy’s index, according to their website. These local pollutants might also have environmental repercussions that affect air quality all the way across the ocean, on the West Coast of the U.S.
CHERRY POINT Bellingham Tacoma
Yakima Portland Kennewick Missoula Helena Bozeman
POWDER RIVER BASIN Possible coal train routes from Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin through the Pacific Northwest and into export terminals. BURLINGTON NORTHERN SANTA FE RAILWAY 2012 map data from The Oregonian story “Coal Clash”
POWERING WASHINGTON STORY CHELSEA STAEHLER | PHOTOS TIM SEGUIN If all goes according to plan, by 2020 Washington state will reach its first benchmark in greenhouse gas reductions by
BACK TO WASHINGTON Dan Jaffe, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington Bothell, has found pollutants from China in both Oregon and Washington. “The very first time we found pollutants from Asia, I presented it at a scientific meeting. Other scientists were a bit skeptical — it’s a long ways from Asia to Washington,” Jaffe said. Since then, the paper containing this initial data has been cited hundreds of times and many institutions have done follow-up studies, Jaffe said. Ozone and mercury are the two most important pollutants coming in from Asia, Jaffe said. Ozone has well-documented health effects, and mercury can effect human fetal development through the consumption of contaminated fish. Secondary impacts, like overseas pollutants and climate change, are going to be difficult to evaluate. “There have been requests to address some questions that have not customarily been addressed in an Environmental Impact Statement. We have some major decisions ahead of us,” Altose of the Washington Department of Ecology said. As the assessment progresses, Whatcom County and the agencies involved in the permitting process will have a chance to decide if the benefits of the Gateway Pacific Terminal are worth the potential costs.
KIRA TAYLOR is an environmental science graduate student at Western Washington University. She is interested in fungal ecology, bicycle touring and raising chickens. ROBIN JONES is a junior studying photography at Western Washington University. He spends his days napping and his nights watching Netflix while telling his friends he is too busy to go out. TIM SEGUIN is pursuing a degree in environmental photography though Huxley College and Western Washington University’s art department. When he is not in the darkroom, he enjoys snowboarding and bird watching.
cutting emissions back to 1990 levels. But the plan does not stop there.
“Looking at Washington state in a broader view, I still think energy efficiency is something that our state could be investing more in.”
PREVIOUS PAGE: The Shell refinery near Anacortes, Wash. processes crude oil into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel at a rate of approximately 5.7 million gallons per day. In Washington, transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Washington has set a goal of reducing emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. IMAGES BELOW: An employee at Itek Energy assembles solar panels at the factory outside of Bellingham, Wash. Despite western Washington’s notorious lack of sunny days, solar technologies are a viable option for renewable energy here.
In 1990, Washington released 92.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. In recent years, the state now annually releases over 100 million metric tons of gases, according to a 2010 report by the Washington State Department of Ecology. After returning to the 1990 levels in 2020, the state aims to reduce emissions by another 25 percent by 2035 and finally by 50 percent by 2050. One way the state plans to accomplish these goals is to focus on cutting emissions from transportation along with making the state’s entire energy portfolio more diverse. “Looking at Washington state in a broader view, I still think energy efficiency is something that our state could be investing more in,” said Alex Ramel, the energy and policy manager at Sustainable Connections in Bellingham. Andy Bunn, an environmental science professor at Western Washington University, said Washington’s energy sources are unique. “We have a really amazing, diverse mix of energy in this state — a lovely portfolio of energy — compared to many other states,” Bunn said. A tremendous amount of power comes from hydropower, a lot of energy comes from natural gas, with some energy coming from coal and other renewable sources such as wind and solar, he said. Some states rely entirely on coal for electricity, whereas Washington is about 65 percent reliant on hydropower and 10 percent on wind, Stuart Clark, air quality program manager at
the Washington State Department of Ecology, said. The easiest thing to do is to start using more energy derived from wind and natural gas. Natural gas has a lower amount of carbon emissions per kilowatt-hour than coal, Bunn said. Solar also makes sense in Washington and Whatcom County, said Josh Miller, manager of Bellingham’s Western Solar, a solar panel installation company. Bellingham, which many think is too overcast and rainy for solar panels, actually has about 1,000 peak sun hours, or total annual hours when solar energy is at its highest production time, compared to 1,080 peak hours in Miami, Miller said. “If you have 1,000 watts of solar at one peak sun hour, it produces 1,000 watts in one hour,” Miller said. A lot of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, which accounts for about 45 percent, making it the state’s largest source, Clark said. “As we think about [national] long-term greenhouse reduction goals — 80 percent by 2050 — well, we’re not going to get that with just changing light bulbs,” Ramel said. Looking at the vehicles themselves and how efficient they are is important as well, Clark said. Whatcom Transportation Authority in Bellingham recently added eight new hybrid buses to their bus line, which produce 40
ABOVE: Alex Ramel, energy and policy manager at Sustainable Connections, says natural gas- and windgenerated energy are currently the easiest ways to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. RIGHT: Washington generates roughly 10 percent of its electricity from wind and 65 percent from hydropower.
percent less greenhouse gas emissions, said Maureen McCarthy, community relations and marketing manager of Whatcom Transportation Authority. The buses use both electricity and diesel, similar to hybrid cars, McCarthy said. Although buses themselves do not reduce emissions, the transit sector can help reduce emissions, McCarthy said. “The more efficient we can be in burning diesel, the more we can fulfill our own goals of sustainability,” McCarthy said. As an agency, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has been working for at least five years to inventory emissions from state facilities, ferries and vehicles to get a handle on how to reduce emissions, said Carol Lee Roalkvam, policy branch manager at WSDOT. The WSDOT has also implemented practices to conserve energy, reduce its number of vehicles and make them more efficient, Roalkvam said. “Our focus in recent years has been to better improve our understanding of emissions,” said Tim Sexton, air quality, acoustics and energy manager at WSDOT.
The agency also explored alternative fuel vehicles that could run on a mixture of propane and gasoline to reduce emissions, Sexton said. Vehicles, such as trucks, dump trucks and snowplows, are using up to 20 percent biodiesel. Biodiesel is derived from plant biomass and has a much lower carbon content, while propane tends to emit lower emissions at the tailpipe than diesel or gasoline, Sexton said. To promote ride sharing, WSDOT expanded the number of carpool lanes, which reduces traffic congestion, Sexton said. The biggest investment is in better and cleaner transportation, while also continuing to invest in renewable energy, to move away from fossil fuels and to be more efficient in energy production, Clark said. WSDOT is exploring new technologies in cleaner burning engines and a no-idling policy to prevent drivers from running their vehicles when not in use, Roalkvam said. Washington’s use of new energy sources has been good, but there is a lot more the state can do, Ramel said. “The 2035 and 2050 [goals] are much more aggressive targets so there would certainly have to be a lot more actions taken either at
the state or federal level if we are going to meet those targets,” Clark said. The first benchmark goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels will arrive in just 7 years. “Knowing where the sources are is a big part of the battle,” Roalkvam said. “I am so optimistic. I really believe that we can do a lot as a state.” Policies and plans are in place to limit the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. If the state sticks to these plans it may very well reach its goal. “We can crack this nut if we want to. It is a policy decision about whether or not we think it is important to do this,” Bunn said. Bunn said the decision is important, though he doesn’t see any negative affects with reducing emissions. “God forbid, if we’re wrong about climate change, then we just end up making a better planet anyway.” CHELSEA STAEHLER is a senior at Western Washington University majoring in journalism with an emphasis in public relations. She enjoys the outdoors, running, drinking coffee and eating Oreos, though not all at the same time. TIM SEGUIN is pursuing a degree in environmental photography though Huxley College and Western Washington University’s art department. When he is not in the darkroom, he enjoys snowboarding and bird watching.
STORY LAUREN FOOTE | PHOTOS TIM SEGUIN
“The fluid is a mixture of mostly water but also consists of chemical additives as well as sand and ceramic pellets.”
fracking point The process begins by pumping fluid at high-pressure miles underground. The rocks fracture. As they crack, they release an energy source that powers a quarter of the U.S. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a growing extraction process for natural gas in the U.S. According to Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) website, the U.S. derived more than half of its natural gas production from fracking in 2010. However, with all of that gas comes controversy, much of that between the Environmental Protection Agency and Congress. According to the EPA’s website, the fracking process begins by pumping large quantities of fluids at high pressure hundreds to thousands of feet down into the earth. The
fluid is a mixture of mostly water but also consists of chemical additives as well as sand and ceramic pellets. While the pressure cracks the rock, the solid material holds open the fractures and natural gas is released. According to the EIA’s website, the nation uses more than 24 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year. Fracking may be able to provide access to this resource but the benefits may be accompanied with long-term repercussions. “People hear ‘jobs’ and they say ‘we are in a really down economy and we are just recovering
now’ and it is hard for people to make this long to mid-term trade off about having a healthy environment versus jobs now,” said Grace Wang, associate professor at Huxley College of the Environment. “It is part of American individualism.” According to the article The Future of Fracking by Bob Weinhold, the natural gas extraction increase is driven by the nation’s natural gas consumption, which has risen 19 percent from 1990 to 2009. The number of natural-gas wells found in the U.S. has increased from about 269,000 in 1990 to nearly 500,000 in 2010 and as of 2012, these oil wells are found in 33 states in the U.S. Department of Natural Resources Geologist Dave Norman said typically the states that are performing the most hydraulic fracturing are North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas. Washington is a non-producing state. According to the article The Rush to Drill For Natural Gas by Madelon Finkel, more than $500 billion in recoverable gas is estimated to be in Pennsylvania alone. The EIA projects that the U.S. possesses 2.5 quadrillion cubic feet of potential natural gas resources, or about three times the volume of the Great Lakes. In a hydraulic fracturing chemicals report done by the Committee of Energy and Commerce in 2011, 14 oil and gas companies were asked to disclose the chemicals used in their fracking fluids. Some of the components are generally harmless such as citric acid, salt and even instant coffee and walnut shells. More harmful chemicals used are benzene, lead, hydrogen chloride, methanol and formaldehyde.
According to the Commerce report, between 2005 and 2009, 750 chemicals and other components were used in the fracking process. Of those, 29 of the chemicals found were identified as possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Although these chemicals are regulated through the Underground Injection Control program that controls the disposal of wastewater under the Safe Drinking Water Act, a fracking exemption was amended in 2005. “Congress specifically exempted the EPA from being able to regulate fracking fluids
HOW FRACKING WORKS:
under the Safe Drinking Water Act,” Sarah Rees, Senior Regulatory Counsel member for the EPA, said. The exemption changed the definition of underground injection so that it no longer includes fluids from fracking, Rees said. Although the chemicals are exempt from the two acts, the EPA still regulates the disposal of the wastewater, or flowback, that follows the process of fracking. Flowback is typically taken to wastewater treatment facilities. “The leftover fluid from fracking has a lot of really nasty stuff in it,” Rees said. Chloride is one of the biggest problems, which is really toxic for the biological activity
water for fracking process
storage tanks waste water treatment and waste disposal
fractures induced by the high pressure injections Image concept from EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan
LEFT: Fracking is commonly used to extract petroleum from shale, a sedimentary rock. Oil shale, also called kerogen shale, is a shale deposit containing solid organic compounds, which can be converted into liquid hydrocarbons. (photo illustration)
Hydraulic fracking involves the injection of water and chemicals at high pressure into a deep well. Natural gas or oil is released as the rock cracks.
“All these big industries basically make it really cheap to screw up the environment.”
that treatment plants rely on to clean up the waste and then process it, she said. Despite the possibility of contaminating groundwater in the environment, Norman said the negative impacts from fracking on acquifers and drinking water are largely due to BELOW: Puget Sound Energy’s Encogen Generating Station is a natural gas-fired power plant capable of producing 165 megawatts of electricity. Power plants fueled by natural gas produce less greenhouse gas emissions than coal-fired plants.
MUSSELING IN human error and can be overcome with proper well construction. “For the first time in years, maybe ever, the U.S. is now a net-exporter and we are less reliant on oil and gas now and more reliant on natural gas from fracking because fracking is so cheap,” Wang said. “All these big industries basically make it really cheap to screw up the environment.” The EPA has been working on a fracking study that looks over all the risks that could happen to drinking water supply as well as groundwater contamination issues. The main focus of this study is to follow the lifespan of the water used in fracking through the acquisition to disposal, Rees said. The study is expected to be final by the end of 2014. “This is something that is going to be in the public eye for a long time,” Rees said. While it seems the benefits of hydraulic fracturing are profitable for the U.S., the long-term consequences are unknown, along with the future of the natural gas extraction method. “I think there is definitely value in the gas extracted but there’s also a lot of environmental concerns and questions as well as a lot of uncertainty, we don’t know what the long-term impacts are going to be,” she said.
Beyond the borders of Washington, a striped plague is spreading west, hitching rides on boats and infesting lakes across the country.
LAUREN FOOTE is a junior at Western Washington University. She is pursuing a visual journalism degree and loves any opportunity to use the right side of her brain. She also loves concerts and adventuring outdoors. TIM SEGUIN is pursuing a degree in environmental photography though Huxley College and Western Washington University’s art department. When he is not in the darkroom, he enjoys snowboarding and bird watching.
STORY FREYA FRADENBURGH | PHOTOS TIM SEGUIN
PREVIOUS PAGE: Asian clams are a widespread aquatic invasive species already inhabiting Lake Whatcom. They have few predators in this region and any effort to remove them from the lake would be economically infeasible. FAR LEFT: Lake Whatcom is already home to several invasive species including Eurasian watermilfoil and Asian clams. Whatcom County and the City of Bellingham have implemented a plan to keep other invasive species from being introduced to the lake. LEFT: The Aquatic Invasive Species Council has started a boat-inspecting program at the Bloedel-Donovan Park boat-launch on Lake Whatcom to prevent the introduction of invasive species. BELOW RIGHT: Teagan Ward captures invasive Asian clams by sifting through the lake sediment at BloedelDonovan Park. During the winter, these clams bury themselves in the sediment to stay warm.
Zebra and quagga mussels are aquatic invasive species that can degrade water quality, outnumber and outcompete native aquatic life, and also harm infrastructure by infesting and clogging pipes. This plague could affect the 96,000 people who derive their drinking water from Bellingham’s Lake Whatcom, according to the City of Bellingham’s website. Teagan Ward is an aquatic invasive species coordinator at the Bellingham Public Works Department who manages established invasive species in Lake Whatcom. “These mussels have cost billions of dollars nationwide in terms of trying to control and manage them and the impacts they cause,” Ward said. Most policy is focused on preventing the introduction of fingernail-sized zebra mussels, Dreissena polymorpha, and the slightly larger quagga mussels, Dreissena bugensis, that have wreaked havoc in the Great Lakes and have made it as far west as Lake Tahoe and Lake
Mead in Nevada and California respectively, Ward said. If mussels established colonies in Lake Whatcom, it could cost the city tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean or replace miles of pipe brimming with tightly packed mussels. Dead and decaying mussels would also taint the odor and taste of water, Ward said. According the zebra mussel fact sheet, on the U.S Geological Survey website, zebra mussels are native to the freshwaters of Eurasia and were first found in Michigan’s St. Clair River in 1989. With each female producing up to 1 million microscopic larvae per year, they have spread quickly to other lakes across the country on boats and seaplanes. David Jude, a research scientist at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment, studies the impacts of invasive mussels. “Any water picked up by ships or by
“[The mussels] get into power plant and water intakes around the Great Lakes and essentially just plug these intakes up.”
fishermen […] would carry these [larvae] all over the place,” Jude said. Jude began finding zebra mussels in his boat’s trawling net, which he drags along the lake bottom to collect fish and other aquatic life, in the late 1990s, he said. “We got so many sometimes that we couldn’t haul the trawl onboard, we had to use a wench to get it back up,” Jude said. “Sometimes we would have 300 pounds of zebra mussels in our trawl.” Adult zebra mussels stick to boat hulls, rocks or other shelled species. Jude said they even stick to each other, forming self-sustaining bundles. Quagga mussels, introduced about five years after the zebra mussel, cause less infrastructure damage but disrupt natural relationships between species that keep a lake ecosystem functioning, Jude said. “The interesting thing about the quagga mussel is they don’t need to stick to something
else; they can sit right on the bottom sediment,” Jude said. Mussels are filter feeders, sucking algae out of the water, and one individual mussel can filter about one liter of water daily, Jude said. Many of the Great Lakes have actually seen a noticeable increase in water clarity as algae is filtered out. This decrease in algae is the first domino in the collapsing line of a trophic cascade, he said. “Algae is an important part of the food web; any organism that eats algae and depends on algae is going to be affected by this decline in algae,” Jude said. Diporeia and zooplankton, both of which feed on algae, are important food sources for larger organisms such as salmon. Jude saidsthe increased filtration by mussels is making the population of diporeia starve. “There used to be around 10,000 diporeia per square meter in Lake Michigan at their highest levels,” Jude said.
Now, he said one would be lucky to find even ten diporeia in the same area. The decrease in food continues to ripple up through the food chain, affecting bigger predators. “We’ve lost the salmon fishery in Lake Huron because of this [change in the ecosystem], and [another] is being threatened in Lake Michigan,” Jude said. Filter feeders also take in any toxic chemicals and heavy metals in the water, and hundreds of ducks and loons around the Great Lakes have died from eating contaminated mussels. “Any organism that eats them then has higher contaminant levels than what would happen with the native food web,” Jude said. Back in Whatcom County, 2,000 miles away from the Great Lakes and 800 miles from the western-most infestation in Lake Tahoe, Teagan Ward wants to keep these mussels out of Whatcom’s waters.
ABOVE: Quagga (top) and zebra (bottom) mussels have not yet been introduced to Lake Whatcom, but they are found in nearby British Columbia. Zebra mussels have the potential to severely damage infrastructure because of their unique ability to attach to hard surfaces like the insides of pipes. BELOW: Jerry Johnson is a resident of Lake Whatcom and holds a Coast Guard master captain’s license. He recognizes the importance of cleaning boats that enter Lake Whatcom.
These species, would damage city water pipelines as well as residential pipes for about 250 homes that get water directly from Lake Whatcom. In addition to infrastructural damage, invasive species could lower lakefront property values by 5 to 20 percent, she said. In order to prevent the introduction of zebra and quagga mussels, Ward introduced the “Clean, Drain, Dry” initiative, an educational campaign aimed toward boaters. Ward said it is a reminder to boaters to ensure adequate cleaning, draining and drying of all their watercraft to prevent unwanted aquatic hitchhikers. In spring 2012, the Aquatic Invasive Species Council for Lake Whatcom appointed one seasonal staff member to facilitate a trial inspection and survey program for boaters at Bloedel-Donovan Park, the most popular public boat-launch site on Lake Whatcom. Jerry Johnson, a resident of Agate Bay for 39 years who also holds a Coast Guard master captain’s license, said he does not mind the inspections as long as they are necessary and efficient. “If you leave your boat in the water most of the time, it’s going to collect critters,” Johnson said. He said he recognizes that a dirty boat can contaminate other lakes and regularly cleans his own boat. “I am fastidious when it comes to matters on my vessel, it has to be shipshape,” Johnson said. In addition to continued education in 2013, seasonal staff will perform mandatory
boat inspections at Bloedel-Donovan from April through September, 6 a.m. to dusk. Local boaters who only spend time on Lake Whatcom will be able to expedite or skip the inspection, although Ward has not decided on the exact method yet. She said they might be able to purchase a permit or a seal between their boat and trailer that shows they have not visited other lakes. Fees for permits would create part of the revenue needed to fund inspections. Education and regulation will help keep these species out of the state. Hundreds of people and dozens of boats crowd the gravel shores and wooden docks on any summer day, but it only takes one boat to drop off unwanted hitchhikers, Ward said.
FEATURED MULTIMEDIA STORY
FREYA FRADENBURGH, an undergraduate at Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment, aspires to write and illustrate her own nature books. She thrives on Pacific northwest air, fresh powder, live music and slow food. TIM SEGUIN is pursuing a degree in environmental photography though Huxley College and Western Washington University’s art department. When he is not in the darkroom, he enjoys snowboarding and bird watching.
OLD GROWTH, NEW LOSS STORY SARAH MIKKELBORG | PHOTOS ELLIOT REID
“If you leave your boat in the water most of the time, it’s going to collect critters,”
The Northwest Forest Plan, enacted in 1994, regulates timber harvest on 24.5 million acres spanning from northwest California to western Washington. For almost 20 years, the plan has protected key habitat for old-growth species, including the northern spotted owl. Despite the intent to preserve habitat and create a sustainable level of timber harvest, both the owl population and local timber industry have diminished. Visit The Planet website at http://planet.wwu.edu for exclusive online stories, additional photographs and other content!
“Our firm has a passion for growing the Northwest economy. I don’t believe in this eco-McCarthyism view that if you work for coal, you can’t do anything good in the world.” -Bruce Gryniewski in an interview with The Seattle Times. Former executive director of Washington Conservation Voters; now partner at Gallatin Public Affairs.
“It is our promise and our duty to our ancestors, our elders, and to future generations to protect and preserve Cherry Point.” -Clifford Cultee, in a 2012 Lummi Nation press release. Chairman of the Lummi Nation